Friday, May 27, 2011

A Poetry Recommendation

Since it seems to be book review week here at Liberation Theology Lutheran, let me finish the work week by recommending a book of poems, the perfect thing for your Friday!  Lynn Domina's Framed in Silence comes at all sorts of theological and spiritual questions, but from fascinating angles, as only poems can do.

I love poems that make me see the world differently, poems that tilt my carefully constructed reality towards a different view. The first section of the book, "Creation Sequence," is full of those kind of poems. In these poems, Domina envisions God in the act of creating (or relaxing after creating), and what a delight it is: ". . . God grins at ingenuity, as at the sustenance / a thornbug derives from sap, so many insects surviving / on bits of leaf or wood shavings or stray husks . . ." It's a God that some of us may remember from the earliest Genesis story, the God that creates and declares everything "Good." It's not a stretch to imagine a God amused by some of those creations.

Domina does not give us a pre-Science view of Genesis retold here. No, right from the beginning, we know that Domina comes to this subject with an educated brain. In her poem, "Chaos," she references things atomic, electromagnetic radiation, electricity, chaos theory--all done in a condensed style: " . . . God spun doodles into symbols: / positive charge, negative charge, divided by, pi / degrees of arc, is or is not equal to, infinity."

Here's a wonderful view of creation from the same poem:

"Chaos bled into channels; the wind halted,
organized itself into breeze, gust, chinook, doldrums,
squall, gale, tempest. Meaning resided, God knew, in the proximity
of one symbol to another: . . ."

Instead of ellipses, the poem contains equations that I can't make the computer do, like E=mc(squared).

The second section of the book, "All Saints," continues the theological inquiry, but the inquiry roams more freely. "Gift" gives us a cool view of grace, through many snowflake metaphors. "Antique Shop" gives us a realistic view of the modern human: ". . . Of course I believe / angels welcomed her to paradise / even as I doubt / the reality of angels." Domina shows her ecumenical approach in poems like "New Year's at Moon Luck Noodle Shop," "Immanence," and "Opening Lecture on Buddhism."

The third section "Peaceable Obsession" offers poems perfect for people who love ekphrastic poems. These poems were inspired by the paintings by Edward Hicks, who painted many versions of "The Peaceable Kingdom," images which are probably familiar to most of us. Even if you don't like ekphrastic work, these poems have much to say about Biblical teachings and the ways we interpret them, about food, about animals, and about our relationships.

This book is well worth your time. It's the kind of book that offers rewards for reading in one sitting, from front to back. But it also offers treasures for the kind of reader who dips in and out, and for the ones who only have time to read one poem a week or one a month. There's not an unsatisfying poem in the book, and so many made me gasp in awe.

For example, here's a view of Heaven, one that would make Rob Bell or N. T. Wright happy: "Rather than Peter polishing the keys, couldn't we also imagine / heaven's gate unlocked by the Iscariot, forgiven?" That's from the poem, "The Quality of Mercy," which repeats and ends in this word: "forgiven."

"Not Exactly What You Had in Mind" gives us a vision of God as sprawling, smoking woman in a flowered, stained muumuu. Wow! It works theologically, and Domina pulls it off poetically. Here's a view of God that I adore, a view of God incarnate:

"You wonder what signal you missed,
when God became the type of person
to so let herself go, what possible whim
plopped her down amid the crabgrass
and thistles you call yours."

The God who lets herself go by hanging out with us--good news indeed!

Obviously this book will not appeal to those of you saying, "Ack, blasphemy, heresy, blhhhh." But surely those people stopped reading my blog years ago. For the rest of us, those who delight in poems that take us to unusual places and return us safely home with strange visions to delight us, do not miss this book.

You can buy it here, if you scroll down to the third row (at least that's where it is on my screen), if you want to buy directly from the Main Street Rag website.

No comments: